18:13 PM

Michael Redd delivers Ohio State commencement address

Former basketball MVP calls on new graduates to have a vision for their lives

Michael Redd, an Olympic gold medalist and former NBA All-Star, delivered the commencement address to summer Ohio State University graduates on Sunday. Approximately 1,700 graduates were honored during the virtual ceremony.

Redd is a homegrown Buckeye who committed to Ohio State after graduating from Columbus West High School.

The 1998 Big Ten Freshman of the Year was also a three-time Ohio State MVP. Redd was drafted in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. He was an NBA All-Star in 2004 and a five-time Bucks MVP. He is the CEO and founder of 22 Ventures.

The following is a transcript of his address:

Thank you to this incredible university, which I love so dearly. Thank you to our board of trustees for this incredible day and incredible opportunity for me. Thank you to our faculty for their tireless, hard work, their ability to adjust in this incredible time in our lives. Thank you. And ultimately, thank you (graduates). Your perseverance and tenacity and drive will be the traits that will carry you to the next era of your life.

In preparation for this speech, I couldn’t help but get emotional knowing that I grew up 10 minutes from here on the Hilltop on the west side of Columbus, and to go from 210 South Terrace to now being a speaker at this year’s commencement blows my mind. But I wanted to be a witness to you that nothing is impossible. You are born for this time. I want to say that again. You are born for such a time as this, in the middle of our world being in flux, social unrest, a pandemic, chaos all around us.

It really is a new reality among us. But I want to challenge you and encourage you in the midst of this new reality, there is new opportunity. Never forget that the world inside of you can impact the world around you.

Never, ever negotiate your dreams, your goals and ultimately, vision. Vision has been a hallmark of my life. I would not be standing here today without it. Vision has almost governed my life, and it literally has dictated all of the decisions that I’ve ever made in my life.

Vision is what has carried throughout my whole, entire career and adulthood. I want to challenge you and encourage you today with that. Be solidified with who you are and begin to have a vision for your life. I'm a man of faith. The Bible says that without vision, people perish. George Washington Carver says there is no vision, there’s no hope. Allow yourself to have vision, govern your life and dictate different decisions within your destiny and purpose.

The secret to your success, is you. It was a vision that brought me to this great institution over 20 years ago, it was vision that carried me into my career in the NBA. It was vision that carried me through a lot of failures within my career. It was vision that carried me through deep, dark times. I want to encourage you today that as long as you have vision, you have everything. Never begin to negotiate the potential that lies within you.

You can achieve whatever you put your mind to. This great institution has been a great testing ground, a great incubator. But what’s to come in your life? This is a microcosm of what the rest of [your] life will be — persevering through challenging times, tough times. I remember winning a gold medal for our beloved country in 2008 and literally six months later, I tear my knee, completely derailing my career. And then a year to the day, I tore it again.

You’re going to face challenging times in your life, but I want to encourage you again to run towards the challenge. Never be afraid of fear. Never be afraid of failure. Challenging times are part of life. I remember going on vacation a year ago and learning more about buffalo ironically, and learned that buffalo are one of the longest surviving mammals in the world. And I asked the question, ‘well, why is that so?’

I learned that buffalo throughout the ages, they survived ice ages. They survived calamity around the world with tornadoes and hurricanes and blizzards. They’ve been able to survive all of that throughout the ages because they’ve learned and their natural bent is to run into storms. They survive millions of years because of their ability to not retreat from a storm or a challenge, but to actually run towards the storm and as they run into the storm, the storm ends quicker. Instead of retreating from the storm and the storm, lasting and lasting and lasting. Never, ever be afraid to fail.

Failure is the breeding ground for innovation. Failure is the breeding ground for innovation and creativity. I once was asked a question after I missed a game winning shot playing for the Milwaukee Bucks years ago. The reporter asked me, he simply asked me, ‘What does it feel like to fail?’

And I responded back to him with a different perspective of failure. I said to him: ‘I’m playing in the NBA. I’m the starting two guard for the Milwaukee Bucks. My teammates and my coaches trusted me to have the ball at the end of the game. And I was able to shoot the ball exactly where I wanted to shoot it. Did I really fail?’

And the reporter had to nod his head.

I want to encourage you again today to be able to see failure differently. Have a different focus and different perspective of your journey through the ups and downs, because they will come. But like the buffalo, begin to embrace it.

Let your drive, and let your passion and let your hunger dictate your future. I’ll never forget, I was hungry after playing basketball all day as a little child, I came home and I was really, really hungry. My mom, all she had prepare for food was cabbage, Brussel sprouts and beans. When I heard about what she had prepared for dinner, I said, ‘Mom, I'm not wanting that.’

And she looked at me and she said, ‘Well, then you're not hungry.’

There’s something to be said about driven, hungry individuals. I believe you’re one. I believe you have all the qualities to impact this world, to make a difference in this world, because this world needs your voice. We need your ingenuity. We need your innovation. We need your genius. I need it. We all need it, so I want to congratulate you on this incredible milestone, that will launch you into a new era of your life.

Surround yourself with people that will always stretch you and push you to do new things and creative things. I remember as a kid going to the swimming pool, the local community swimming pool, and I had a fear of heights. I remember climbing the ladder to dive off the diving board. The line, at this point, as I’m standing on the diving board, is so long and I’m beginning to have fear in my heart. I turn around and the line is long and it’s bunched up and there’s no way for me to turn back to climb down the ladder.

I had no choice but to jump off the diving board and take the plunge. And my friends behind me were encouraging me. Never be afraid to take risk. Never be afraid to jump off into the deep and to jump off into uncertainty. There’s a great quote about risk: “If you're living on the edge of risk, you're taking up too much real estate.”

Dare to be different. Embrace the distinction. Our culture is full of people who plagiarize, who look at social media and say, ‘I want to be like them.’ There’s nothing wrong with gleaning from people and learning from people and having mentors, but I want to challenge you to dare to be different.

Distinction makes history. Not sameness. Not average. When you come to this university, the expectation and the bar is high, and that is to make a mark on history. I salute you again today, graduates of 2020, you are entering into the greatest time of your life. Embrace the challenge and enjoy the scenic route. Congratulations again. God bless you and thank you and go Bucks.

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